McNeill's Duck's Breath Ale | McNeill's Brewery

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McNeill's Duck's Breath AleMcNeill's Duck's Breath Ale
25 Ratings
McNeill's Duck's Breath AleMcNeill's Duck's Breath Ale

Brewed by:
McNeill's Brewery
Vermont, United States

Style: English Strong Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.50%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 08-04-1998

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 25 |  Reviews: 23
Reviews by TeddyBrew:
Photo of TeddyBrew
4.37/5  rDev +17.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I stopped by McNeill's on Friday night on the way to NH. Had time for a couple pints of this fine bitter, and liked it enough to want to stop for a growler on the way back to NYC. That growler was a bargain at $9. By the way it's a fine bar with a friendly crowd.

This beer has the refreshing taste, but full flavor, that you are more likely to find in a session bitter over in the UK. I'm generally not a fan of over-hopped beers, and I find the hopping here to be subtle and interesting. Nice citrus tones throughout and a really fine mouthfeel. It's not an incredibly complex ale, but has a comfortable smell and taste, and is tremendously drinkable. A great beer in my view.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of Todd
3.33/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Presentation: 750ml brown bottle with this ridiculous looking super duck flying on the label and letting out a breath.

Appearance: Tarnished copper in appearance with a thin bubbly froth of a head.

Smell: Raw hop aroma; coarse hop leaf and hop oils. Almost unnoticeable faint malt aroma.

Taste: An extreme herbal, citrus, dry and coarse hop flavour with an underlying alcohol that sits in the mouth. The only malt detected is a dry grain flavour (Burton-on-Trent style; high on the gypsum) that becomes a tad nutty in the end.

Notes: The complexity of hops is what makes this beer. Not a well balanced beer being that the hops take over, definitely an enjoyable one for any hop heads.

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Photo of sponberg
3.62/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bomber bottle poured into a pint glass. Amber, with a white head that doesn't bother sticking around long.

The aroma starts out with a sharp hoppiness, which carries over into the flavor. A citric, bitter hop flavor is almost but not quite balanced by a dry, rather salty/grainy maltiness, with the alcohol presence emerging towards the end of the sip. The aftertaste is bitter & dry. Schwirling in the yeast sediments at the end made little difference in the flavor. Tasty, in its bitter dry Burton-y sort of way.

And didn't improve my poker playing one bit.

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Photo of Jason
4/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Hazy orange amber with a lace that sticks.

Thick bready aroma and flavour. Lots of yeasty, grainy, musty flavours and aromas. Slightly fruity with a faint buttery flavour, hops come though with some bitterness.

A raw brew at its best, a bitter is its prime with a cloudy mess that needs not to be touched.

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Photo of Billolick
3.97/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bomber bottle, purchased up in Montpelier, Vt. Pours cloudy, medium brown, low carbonation, chunky particles, next to no head. This stuff looks like home brew! Hoppy, musty, earthy nose. Mellow brew, sweet malt base, lightly hopped. low carbonation adds up to a nice soft and smooth mouthfeel. Balanced ale. tasty finish of hop notes and more earthyness. Down to earth and tasty. Worth a try

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Photo of GratefulBeerGuy
3.67/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5 gotta have this AT Mcneill's.

Pours a medium amber with orange hues. Small, thin white head appearing, then dissapearing. only lightly carbonated, lacing minimal.

Smells of fruity hops, actually is a bit "bitter" on the nose with hints of malty sweetness. slightly earthy smells of "greenery".

Taste is a flowery bitter hop effect slightly mellowed by bit of sweet malt and yeastyness. I also get a bit of "veggie" in there.

kind of heavy on the palate for what looks like a rather thin brew, the bitter hops let's you know what's happenin'. Starts bitter/sweet finishes bitter. It lives up the name!

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Photo of Sammy
3.48/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On cask at the brewpub. No aroma. Served properly, a little warm. Clearly an English bitter style and bitterness. minimal head and soke lace on golden amber. Understated bitterness,well malted, so while nailed the style still not bold profile and concurrent score.

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Photo of andjusticeforale
3.8/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This poured without much head or carbonation into a pint glass It was orange rust colored and looked like syrup.

This had an interesting taste of hops, both flavor ansd bittering, and a nice malty background. There was an IPA quality to this, but more subtle. There was a unique bitter and sweet aftertaste, and very good drinkability as the glass warmed.

My first Mcneill's, definitely not my last.

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Photo of shbobdb
3.63/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Wow, this is a great beer, but it is also definately the poster-child for 'needs to be on cask'. I don't know whether McNeil's does put it on cask, but they ought!

Like most British-style beers, the minerals dominate the taste, smell, and mouthfeel. The hops in this bitter add a pleasant numbing sensation to the mouth as well as a nice leathery bite. There is also a definite presence of some nice, toffee-like British malts.

Another winner from McNeil's. Again, this is a fairly straightforward beer, it reminds me a lot of Fuller's ESB, and I mean that in the best way possible. An excellent beer, but I have to ask, what would this beer lose by being ~3% abv? I like this beer a great deal, but since the water ended up being the dominant flavour anyway, they may as well have made it a raging session beer.

Minor nitpicks aside, a great, great beer.

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Photo of edchicma
4.17/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Only thing lacking was appearance. No head and an overly cloudy appearance. Great smell..earthy, malty and inviting. Taste was excellent...Initial light sweetness with a mid-palate bitter aspect that continued nicely into the finish and remained nicely on the finish. Slightly chewy mouthfeel that was smooth nonetheless. Easy on the drinkability scale. Another good offering from McNeill's.

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Photo of weeare138
3.97/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appears an orange amber color with a 1 finger creamy white head. Tiny amounts of lacing is left around the glass.
Smell is of an oaky English style ale with hints of vanilla, caramel, and orange citrus hops. Very homebrew-esqu in my opinion.
Taste is of the same aromas. Bitter-sweet brew with sugary orange hops running along the palate to the back and lingering back to the front.
Mouthfeel is slightly chewy with a bitter-sweetness that stands out. English style ale yeast was utilized and keeps things interesting.

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Photo of david18
2.97/5  rDev -20.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I had a draft of this at the Amsterdam ale house on the upper west side of manhattan. There might have something wrong with it but it was extremely cloudy. You couldn't see into at all. The flavor was ok. A little bland but pretty much like many English ales. No carbonation to speak of but that may be related to the cloudy issue.

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Photo of ppoitras
3.61/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

22ozer from Waterbury Beverage, Waterbury, VT.

Poured into an imperial pint glass, formed a slightly off-white 1/2" head over a dark golden brew. Laces nicely, even though the head has faded down to a small layer of foam. Very slight malt and hop nose. Taste is of pale malts, and then rounds out with a balancing amount of hops. Mouthfeel is somewhat neutral, but the drinkability is great. Sort of like an O-positive of brews, it would probably go with everything.

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Photo of ChappyCubsFan
3.97/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was our hotel nightcap after an evening of visiting Which Brew Tavern in Easton, PA. I don't think the others were quite ready for this beer. It was definitely a unique beer, and seemed to have a stronger alcohol content than the 5.5%. Personally, I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of the good McNeil's beers we sampled at the 2002 Vermont Brew Festival. The malt was sweet and the aroma was like roasted malt and molasses. It had some citrusy taste as well. The bittering hops came through in the classic English style. For a West Coast hophead, this was an enjoyable experience.

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Photo of scottum
3.68/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at sunset.

Hazy amber with a nice head. Hoppy citrus flavor. Not quite balanced by grainy malts. Hop flavors are very nice and complex, but something is lacking in this brew. No where near as good as the wonderful McNeill's ESB. Worth a sample for hopheads only.

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Photo of bjohnson
3.63/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Purchased at the Brattleboro Co-op, $3.99

A: Pours a hazy amber color with a frothy one and a half finger white head. Excellent retention and wonderfully tight lacing.
S: Fruit and floral hop notes are pretty powerful. Slight metallic notes also. Fruity notes are also a bit juicy.
T/M: Fruity hop notes stick on the tongue followed by a long lasting bitterness. Extra dry on the palate makes it hard to move the tongue across the roof of the mouth. Clean and refreshing. Less than moderate body on this brew and a bit light. Not so much the duck's breath if you ask me--I'm not spitting hops like the label suggests. A tad buttery.
D: A prototypical session brew to be had a the brewery as I'm sure it's better on tap. Wasn't too impressed, but it didn't disappoint either.

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Photo of waughbrew
2.35/5  rDev -36.8%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Very light hazy amber with close to zero head and retention, minimal stickiness. Smells like yeast, grassy hops, and grainy sweetness. Taste is rather sweet toasted grains with a bit of grassy, faintly citrusy hoppage. Finishes sweet. The flavor is a little astringent and a little buttery.

Very reminiscent of mediocre homebrew, I expected to see that this beer was a 3% bitter and then I would understand why it doesn't have much good flavor to it. If it is really a 5.5% ESB then it has little excuse.

This beer isn't that bad, but it isn't good either. I probably won't buy it again.

(After reading the other reviews, this might not have been the best bottle. Maybe the bottle conditioning didn't complete, because this was sweet with very low carbonation, not that hoppy or bitter)

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Photo of Brad007
4.05/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a nice cloudy pale amber color with an ample head and some lacing. Aroma is mostly nice and bitter, mildly chewy and even somewhat hoppy. Taste is malty and bitter on the tongue and fades to a bitter/fruity aftertaste. Goes down pretty smooth and leaves a nice dryness at the back of the throat. Mouthfeel is interesting for this beer. Not too bitter in any form. Decent.

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Photo of Crackblind
4.42/5  rDev +18.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Reported retired but available on cask at the brewery in Brattleboro in August, 2016. Pours a cloudy amber with a nice foamy head. Fruity on both the nose and tongue, especially at the first sip. A bit thin feeling. This is the bitter I remember drinking way back when on my first visit to London, before you could even think of getting a fresh example on this side of the pond! I really hope this means more will be readily available or I'm going to have to make regular trips up here (it's cheaper than flying across three ocean).

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Photo of kennyo
1.96/5  rDev -47.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

purchased bottle at the Brattleboro Food Coop

Pours a hazy light brown with a nice white head that dissapates fairly quickly. Aroma is malt and what is that, lemon. Oh No, another badly bottled beer by McNeills. the taste is lemon with a little sweetness. Almost undrinkable, got through 17 of the 22oz.

There have been threads on the BA about the inconsistency of the McNeill bottled products and this is one of them.

I have had this beer before and it was very good and I thought about not reviewing it but that is what this page is fore.

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Photo of PatandDavid
4.35/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Redbones.

Cloudy dark pumpkin color with a citrusy hop aroma.

Almost like a cask beer: low carbonation, slightly sweet, bit of a hop finish in the end. I would not call this a hop monster, it fell into the 'bitter' style in my book.

McNeills beers have a bit of a excellent, outstanding homebrew taste to them and this beer was no exception.

Very drinkable, would get again anytime. pat

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Photo of UncleJimbo
3.91/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Sampled from cask at the brewpub.

The ESB poured a clear-to-very-slightly-hazy, amber color with sudsy, white foam that persisted. The smell was hoppy (chalky, English hops) with a hint of sulfur. The taste was moderately malty with flavors of English malt and English hops (moderate hoppiness overall). A respectable ESB. The mouthfeel was dry and smooth with medium body and low carbonation (cask). It was relatively clean, with a lightly malty finish. This was a smooth and easy drinking ESB, one off the flagship brews of McNeill's.

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Photo of FrankLloydMike
5/5  rDev +34.4%

Photo of francisweizen
4.16/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Let's just say copper. Fresh from the cask @ the brewery this one had a lovely look with it's colour and carbonation being just right. Temperature was perfect as well. Aromas were a bit light in the start, but the juicy citrusy hops were there, and the biscuity malts were also there to balance out the hops. Taste was bitter with citric hops up front and the middle was malt dominated and a bit "chewy". Finish was very dry and hoppy, just like I like it. Mouthfeel was cask wonderfulness smooth and oh-so-easy-drinkin'. Drinkability is a 5 my friend, it's so easy to just drink these cask bitters all night long at McNeils.

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Photo of Rochefort10nh
3/5  rDev -19.4%

McNeill's Duck's Breath Ale from McNeill's Brewery
Beer rating: 3.72 out of 5 with 25 ratings